Before the Victorian era, sports clubs and sports education were dominated by the leisured classes. The gentry had access to the space needed to play games, the time to train and compete, and the money to pay for the necessary equipment.
Of course, this did not mean that other people did not play sport. From kicking a football about in the Strand to skating on the Serpentine, there have always been opportunities for Londoners to enjoy sporting activities.
From the mid 19th century onwards, Westminster parishes, and subsequently Councils, started to provide subsidised public recreational facilities such as swimming pools and sports grounds. Good access to sport was increasingly associated with public health, and perceived as a weapon against poverty and related social ills.
Youth clubs were another route through which young people from all walks of life could become involved in sports. Youth groups like the Stowe Club for Boys acted as a springboard for some impressive sporting talent.
Seizing free opportunities for sport in Westminster
The history of Westminster's public pools
Inspiring young people through sport
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Find out what sports clubs, groups and activities are available near you this summer to keep you and your family active